The Role of Language Centers in CLAC

Submitted by Cindy Evans, CLAC Vice-Chair, Language Resource Center Director, Skidmore College

From Language Labs to Resource Centers

As a language resource center director and a practitioner of CLAC, I feel compelled to express a few thoughts on the potential role for language centers in support of CLAC initiatives.  Over the course of my 20 years in this profession, I’ve seen language labs transformed from facilities supporting primarily oral / aural practice into resource centers at the forefront of implementing the latest in technology, offering a rich context for the study of foreign cultures and languages.

Language Resource Centers Across the Curriculum

As the foreign language curriculum increasingly reaches out across the disciplines, so should our language resource centers.  There is growing momentum toward building a more inclusive and comprehensive L2 curriculum along the lines advocated by the 2007 MLA Report.  The National Standards, “the 5 C’s”, serve as guideposts to broaden the scope beyond the traditional language and literature curriculum.  At the same time, we have seen a progression from language lab headset days to foreign language resource centers / media labs / culture studios.  The evolution of the naming conventions for our “language labs” is reflective of the broadening in scope.  While the focus on language acquisition remains central to our mission, we increasingly serve as portals to experience foreign cultures.  Fellow center director (and CLACker), Sharon Scinicariello describes her newly remodeled and renamed Global Studio (University of Richmond) as “a hub for the use of technology to encounter the world.” (http://globalstudio.wordpress.com/about/)

Language centers can and should open our doors to the campus community to facilitate our community members’ access to foreign languages and cultures.

The Missing Link?

CLAC programs are housed in many different areas on campus, and often NOT associated with FL departments.  As centers we can serve as a central resource for CLAC programs, especially those having no formal ties to language departments.  It seems natural that language centers should serve needs for L2 support from all corners of the campus. Resource centers can and should provide guidance and reference materials to support CLAC programs, particularly for non-language faculty practitioners of CLAC and for students engaged in self-directed learning.

Language Resource Centers Support Self-directed Learning

CLAC is generally conceived as learner-centered.  All CLAC programs face challenges in dealing with a wide range of proficiency levels, student interests, and content areas.  Some programs can be highly individualized, as in our program at Skidmore where each student selects a content area and reading materials and works largely independently.  Language centers can provide resources to support language acquisition and research in foreign languages.  In institutions where the CLAC curriculum is not individualized (i.e. all students in the section have the same readings), resource centers can offer language support for CLAC students wishing to advance their proficiency and possibly guidance for any individualized research needs.

Resources for Non-language Faculty

For CLAC practitioners across the disciplines, language centers may be a source of information on L2 pedagogy, curricular design, and assessment.  Many center directors have expertise in these areas and can provide guidance in such issues as determining appropriate tasks for the CLAC classroom.

Types of Resources Available

Some examples of L2 expertise that many resource centers that can provide to support CLAC faculty and students include:

Assessment-related information:  Most center directors can provide information on assessing language learners’ proficiency level (ACTFL standards), and the National Standards for Foreign Language Education (“5 Cs”).

L2 pedagogy – Language centers directors often can offer guidance on developing proficiency-based curricula, e.g., designing appropriate tasks with respect to proficiency levels.

Language-specific resources – Centers offer a variety of resources to support L2 learning (texts and reference materials), foreign language encyclopedias, foreign TV programs (many centers receive foreign broadcasts via satellite), bilingual dictionaries, foreign film collections, language learning software.

L2 Tutoring – Language centers often have advanced student language assistants or native language assistant speakers who offer tutoring for students in FL classes.